Archaeology News

Surgical amputation of a limb 31,000 years ago in Borneo

Published September 9, 2022

A fascinating new article has just been released, outlining the collaborative works between Australian and Indonesian Archaeologists. The article offers an interesting insight into the evolution of medicine and surgical procedures, offering unexpecting early evidence of successful limb amputation and suggests that some modern human foraging groups within tropical Asia had developed sophisticated medical knowledge before the Neolithic farming transition.

Previous research has let us to believe that the evolution of medicine and complex medical procedures had developed during the emergence of agricultural societies approximately 10,000 years ago as the Neolithic Revolution gave rise to a new wave of complex health problems previously unknown to foraging populations.

The discovery revolves around the archaeological excavation of skeletal remains in the Sangkulirang–Mangkalihat Peninsula of East Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). The relatively complete skeleton presented evidence of surgical amputation of the left foot. The shaft fragments of the distal tibia and fibula demonstrated evidence of healing and the trauma patterns are not consistent with patterns of non-surgical amputation such as animal attacks and crushing.

The radiocarbon dating of the remains returned an age of 31,000 years, much older than previous works and offers a new and exciting insight into the evolution of medico-socio-cultural practices within early agricultural societies.

Read the full article here.

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